(Sports Network) - The good news for a St. Louis Cardinals team that's been handed back-to-back stinging defeats to the Colorado Rockies is that it will have Chris Carpenter on the mound for the finale of this three-game series. The bad news is the struggling club will have to deal with Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez when it returns to Coors Field this afternoon.
This trip to Denver has been a nightmare so far for the Cardinals, with the defending National League Central champions having squandered big leads in both losses in this set. After Colorado struck for nine ninth-inning runs to rally for an improbable 12-9 victory on Tuesday, the Rockies erased an early five-run deficit last night and came through with an 8-7 decision on Chris Iannetta's solo home run in the bottom of the ninth.
With the contest knotted at 7-7, Iannetta greeted rookie reliever Evan McLane by crushing a 3-2 pitch over the wall in left to start Colorado's half of the ninth. It was the Rockies' third consecutive win in their final at-bat, a stretch that began with a 15-inning triumph over San Francisco on Sunday.
The Rockies trailed 5-0 after 4 1/2 innings of Wednesday's tilt but got back in it with a three-run fifth. Down 8-5 entering the bottom of the eighth, Colorado drew even on Dexter Fowler's three-run homer off Jason Motte with one out in the frame.
"[If] we're down early, we're going to start chipping away. That's been our mind set all year," said Rockies shortstop Clint Barmes.
Ian Stewart contributed to the comeback by knocking in three runs on a pair of singles, while Brad Eldred went 3-for-4 and scored three times for Colorado. Jonathan Herrera and Carlos Gonzalez also collected three hits each on the evening.
Eldred had been recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs prior to the game to take the roster spot of Todd Helton, placed on the disabled list due to a stiff back.
Former Rockies star Matt Holliday finished 4-for-5 with a pair of solo homers and four runs scored for the reeling Cardinals, who have now dropped five of their last seven tilts and fell three games back of first-place Cincinnati in the NL Central with last night's setback. Jon Jay had three hits and also drove in a pair of runs in a losing cause.
St. Louis starter Jaime Garcia allowed four runs (two earned) over the first 5 1/3 innings and was in line for the win, but the bullpen surrendered four runs in the eighth and ninth frames in a second straight poor showing.
"It's a tough loss," said Cards manager Tony La Russa. "We did a lot of good things, but we just couldn't shut them down in the end."
St. Louis has now lost in 10 of its last 11 meetings with the Rockies and is 1-6 at Coors Field over that stretch.
The task doesn't figure to get any easier for the Cardinals today. Jimenez enters the finale with a sensational 14-1 record and 2.27 earned run average over his 17 starts of 2010, although the All-Star righty hasn't been on top of his game as of late.
Jimenez has allowed 17 runs in 17 2/3 innings over his past three starts after posting an unbelievable 1.15 ERA through his first 14 outings. In his most recent mound trip, the hard-throwing standout was tagged for seven runs in a six-inning no-decision against San Francisco last Saturday.
The native Dominican is 5-0 in seven home starts this year, but has given up a total of 13 runs over the course of his last two Coors Field efforts. Lifetime against the Cardinals, Jimenez is 1-2 with a 4.32 ERA in four appearances.
Carpenter also earned a spot on this year's NL All-Star squad after amassing a 9-2 record to go along with a 3.16 ERA in 18 assignments. The 2005 NL Cy Young Award recipient has also been terrific when pitching at Coors Field in the past, having yielded just one run over 14 1/3 innings in two previous starts there, and boasts a 3-0 mark with an 0.75 ERA in five lifetime encounters with Colorado.
Like Jimenez, Carpenter does come into tonight's clash off a subpar showing, as the veteran righty was rocked for eight runs (seven earned) and nine hits before exiting after three innings of a home loss to Milwaukee last Saturday. He had recorded five consecutive winning decisions prior to that outcome.
The Rockies have won three straight and seven of their last nine tests and have moved into a tie for second place in the NL West, three games behind division-leading San Diego.